Tuesday 23 June 2015

"The Capital Strokes Unchained!": Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes [Interview]

Continuing in a lengthy tradition of stellar funk and soul acts hailing from Italy – including worthwhile representation in recent years from Calibro 35 and Soulful Torino Orchestra (from independent Italian record label Record Kicks) – the debut album from Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes promises to carry that tradition from 2015 going forward!

Based in Rome, the band’s new release, entitled ‘CS’, is an open testament to the genre’s pioneers like Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Prince and George Clinton, but perhaps no bigger testament than to one of the pioneers of Italian soul music itself, Rocky Roberts.  Rocky Roberts was perhaps most well-known for having sang the original ‘Django’ theme from the 1966 movie, and subsequently having it reused in the Quentin Tarantino 2012 remake (‘Django Unchained’), and is also the father of The Capital Strokes’, Randy. 

Initially starting out as a covers band, The Capital Strokes soon evolved into creating music in their own right: the 12-piece band can boast performances at Italian music festivals including Umbria Jazz, Tolfa Jazz and Atina Jazz, plus members of The Capital Strokes have also provided session work for other notable soul acts including Tony Momrelle and Martha High.  With the wealth of experience the collective are able to boast, the timing seems perfect for Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes to take centre stage and assume that spotlight for eager fans worldwide.  The 13-track album draws upon the earlier listed soul and funk luminaries but the songs also introduce enough of the band’s only personality and charm to offer the scene and the genre that little something different.  Songs like ‘I Can’t Do Without Love’, ‘Do It Like The Strokes’ and the band’s lead single, ‘Oh Yeah!’, deserve your attention.

The Blue-in-Green Blog was lucky enough to catch up with Randy Roberts to discuss the band’s new project, ‘CS’.

How much of an influence was your father's music to what you and the Capital Strokes are now creating?
Well, actually my father is in every single move or decision I make, what I have as a vision, depends totally on what I saw during my childhood! The energy and power that my show has is exactly what I have in my blood just because of him!

How does the process of writing and producing new music work for you as a unit?
We don’t have any set rules for that.  We always feel the urge to create, to compose a song, to form a part of our show, rather than arrange a new song.  We 'let it flow'.  I guess I can say we’re very lucky because it so happens that we have three different composers in the band... and we’re always connected to each other, bouncing off ideas, new melodies, riffs, or guitar licks, helping each other, collaborating and working hard to obtain the best result.

Can you tell us a little about what went into the making of 'CS’?
We played the rhythmic instruments all together trying to obtain the same groove that we have when we’re onstage. Then, we played the horns section, always together, then I recorded all of the voice parts in my studio. The funny thing is that of all the interludes we have in 'CS', '3AM' is a kind of an inside joke I had with Jorma (guitarist). In a corner of the studio where we worked on the rhythmics there was a weird pedal owned by Alex Di Nunzio, our precious sound engineer. I told Jorma there was no way he could find a way to incorporate that in our music! Of course, it was a challenge that he accepted immediately, he plugged in the pedal and he played what you’re listening to on that track. Alex pressed REC and Jorma played that astonishing riff. The next day I was in the studio and laced up the rest of it!!! The other interludes are simply the warm up of the second day of our recording session, I told Alex to record the warm up, I brought all the tracks home and I edited 'Ghost' and 'Tomei’s Joint'. 'Doo Wop' is just me freely creating something with the 'Do it Like The Strokes' theme.

The video for 'Oh Yeah!' seemed like it was a lot of fun to make: what made you settle on 'Oh Yeah!' for the single release?
'Oh Yeah!' is one of the most representative songs of 'CS', that’s it! we thought we needed a fresh, powerful introduction to let people get to know us so, it turned out we picked 'Oh Yeah!' rather than 'Do It Like The Strokes' because it's a little easier to digest at first.

Who would be a dream collaborator for Randy Roberts & The Capital Strokes?
Right now I’m thinking of Mark Ronson, but the answer is every artist who can give us what we don’t have now.

How does the music from the album translate to the stage?
If you’re asking me what kind of impact our songs have, the answer is they make you move, they make you happy, they make you stop thinking about everything that's bothering you. ... I’m a workaholic and you know what, I need to listen to what I love, that makes we want to listen and listen and listen and listen more, it means creating a connection, an interplay, a groove, that with passion gets refined in every detail, it's an obsession for the improvement, 12 people playing in the same direction to get more than what we have on 'CS'.  We’re entertaining before everything else, and to be entertaining we have to feel it!

Which one song from 'CS' would you play to win over a prospective new fan?
'Do It Like The Strokes' for sure.  In our shows, every fan sings it! Somebody once sang it to me when answering the phone!

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